Playoff Takeaways: Andersen shines as Hurricanes outlast Islanders in Game 1

Frederik Andersen stood on his head for a 33-save performance, and Stefan Noesen scored the eventual winner as the Carolina Hurricanes took Game 1 with a 3-1 win over the New York Islanders.

Coming into Game 1 of what seems the most lopsided of the Eastern Conference’s Round 1 matchups, the New York Islanders’ lone edge seemed clear. 

Offence? That’s all Carolina, the Hurricanes boasting one of the most dangerous scoring corps in the league. Defence? Special teams? It all tilted towards the Canes, the East’s second-best outfit. If the Isles had any hope, the thinking went, it came down to the two men manning the nets.

In blue and orange, there was Semyon Varlamov, who put together one of the season’s best campaigns at the position. And waiting behind him was New York’s other world-beater, Ilya Sorokin, fresh off the first Vezina nomination of his career.

Lost in the shuffle, though, was the momentum being built in Carolina’s own cage. Saturday night, under the PNC Arena lights, Frederik Andersen offered up a clear reminder.

After a tumultuous regular season that saw the 34-year-old sidelined for months with myriad health issues that had his career in jeopardy, the steady Dane returned for Carolina in early March and lit the league on fire. A 9-1-0 run led him into these playoffs — he posted an absurd .951 save percentage, and three shutouts, during that stretch — and here, in Game 1, Andersen showed he’s ready to be a difference-maker for the Canes in these playoffs.

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And good thing, because his services were sorely needed in the first instalment of this series, with Carolina prevailing 3-1.

After a lively and fairly even first period saw Carolina and New York trade goals, it was the underdog Isles who tilted the ice heavily in Period 2, nearly doubling the Canes in shots by the frame’s end, doing all they could to force a series-opening upset.

And they nearly had it. But each time the Islanders came close, there was Andersen.

He was there early in the second when visitors broke in on a two-on-one, resulting in a point-blank chance from Kyle Palmieri. And again, later in the period, when it was Mat Barzal getting a grade-A look. Early in the third, with the game still knotted at 1-1, it was Andersen who quelled the Islanders’ attempt to keep that second-period momentum rolling, the netminder shutting down a dangerous Noah Dobson chance just before Stefan Noesen went down the other way and scored what wound up being the game-winning tally.

By night’s end, Andersen had turned aside 33 of 34 shots. But beyond simply holding the Isles to one goal, it was how and when he did it that truly made him the difference-maker in this one — saves to keep the game level, saves to preserve leads, saves when his teammates found themselves on the back foot.

The Canes don’t find their level, and finish with the Game 1 win, without No. 31 handling his business.


As is often the case in the post-season, the final score doesn’t convey just how close this game was.

After 20 minutes that saw the game tied at 1-1, the shots near level too, the Islanders put on a clinic in the middle frame and nearly turned this game on its head. Through 40 minutes, the Islanders were heavily outshooting Carolina — nearly doubling them in that department — and were throwing their body in front of seemingly every shot, and every pass, that came off a Canes player’s stick.

The suffocating strategy nearly worked. The Hurricanes looked out of sorts. If Dobson cashes in early in the third, if Andersen doesn’t hold them at bay, perhaps the Islanders tilt the ice enough to get the lead and hold on for 60 minutes.

Instead, the Canes wrestled it back in the third, scoring early themselves to take the 2-1 lead, before adding the empty netter late.

While the home team’s netminder had a sterling night, Varlamov was no slouch himself. The Canes had their moments, even amid that difficult second period, and the Islanders’ tender was there to give his side a chance, too. Expect that matchup to remain a crucial one as the rest of the series unfolds.


One of the key reasons these Canes seem to have something different from their iterations of years past is the infusion of skill that came at this year’s trade deadline.

Much of the chatter on that front has focused on Jake Guentzel. And rightly so — the long-time Pittsburgh Penguin has been money for Carolina since arriving in Raleigh, leading the club in scoring since his debut and looking every bit a game-changer for them. 

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While he was held off the scoresheet in Game 1, this time it was GM Don Waddell’s other pickup — former Washington Capital Evgeny Kuznetsov — who played a key role in snagging the win.

It was an up-and-down night for the 31-year-old, much like his tenure in Canes colours so far overall. A few bobbles at the opposing blue line gifted the Islanders dangerous chances, or brought a Canes’ attacking sequence to an early end.

Still, it was Kuznetsov who opened the scoring early with a whip of a shot just one-and-a-half minutes into the game. And it was Kuznetsov who kicked off the sequence that led to Carolina’s go-ahead goal late in the game, the pivot collecting the puck at the top of the zone and firing it on net, before a couple deflections and a Noesen backhand delivered it to the back of the cage.

If the knock on Carolina in the past was that the club seemed to lack just that little bit of offensive dynamism to get them over the edge, well, it was that extra bit that got them there in Game 1.


The simplest part of New York’s strategy in this series must be this: stay out of the box, at all costs.

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The special-teams mismatch here is about as stark as you could find. The Canes have the best penalty kill in the game, while the Isles have the 21st-best power play. More importantly: the Canes have the second-best power play in the league, and the Isles have the league’s worst penalty kill.

New York granted the Canes three chances to use that man-advantage edge in Game 1. They got burned on the first of those, allowing Carolina to take an early lead just minutes into the night. The Hurricanes’ power play looked plenty deadly on its other chances too, surely building momentum even if the score remained unchanged when 5-on-5 resumed. The Islanders got two power plays of their own, and came up short on both.

That’s not a formula that works out for them over seven games.

They’ll get another crack at it on Monday, when the two clubs meet for Game 2.

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